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Crónica e imágenes: «The Man Of The Woods Tour», en Detroit, 2 de abril

El cantante Justin Timberlake actua en el escenario de Little Caesars Arena durante su gira «The Man Of The Woods Tour» el 2 de abril, en la ciudad de Detroit, MI, EE.UU.

Timberlake is the ‘Man’ at Little Caesars Arena

Detroit News — Justin Timberlake brought two hours of pure entertainment and superstar showmanship muscle to a packed Little Caesars Arena on Monday night.

The pop singer’s stop on his Man of the Woods tour was an engrossing spectacle that turned the arena into his personal wooded playland; no concert artist has come close to using Little Caesars Arena’s space this creatively, save for perhaps Lady Gaga.

The production was spread out in-the-round, and Timberlake held court on a stage whose long catwalk zig-zagged across the arena floor, with a circular stage in the center. Throughout the night, images of pine trees and other forest landscapes were beamed onto scrims that hung from the arena rafters, and at one point Timberlake and his backup singers sang songs around a campfire that arose from the stage floor. It’s not easy to bring an outdoorsy vibe into a modern sports arena, but Timberlake came awfully close to making Little Caesars Arena feel like a campground.

Of course, Timberlake’s version of the outdoors also has a full bar, a disco dance floor and enough laser power to fuel a science fiction epic. He also came armed with two dozen arena-shaking, body-rocking anthems, time-tested hits from his formidable back catalog and songs from his two-month old «Man of the Woods» that were given crisp presentation in this lively setting.

Timberlake didn’t do it alone. He didn’t have to. He was aided by his spirited 15-member Tennessee Kids backing band, who brought vigorous pizzazz to the performance. He was also joined intermittently by up to six backup dancers, meaning he had up to 21 people on stage with him at any given moment.

But Timberlake is smart enough, and seasoned enough, to know that he need not do all the heavy lifting himself. The Tennessee Kids became his own E-Street band — there were times, especially when the band turned around and played to the fans at the back of the arena, that the show recalled a Bruce Springsteen concert — mixed with Bruno Mars’ Hooligans. They surrounded Timberlake, lifted him up, and allowed him to be the star without making him shoulder the weight of the entire show.

For his part, Timberlake was cool and commanding, taking the stage in a jean jacket and track pants and still looking like he owned the place. Opener «Filthy», whose wobbly funk made for an ill-fit at radio, sounded right at home in the large-scale setting, and segued cleanly into «Midnight Summer Jam», also from «Man of the Woods».

Those were two of nine songs from the new album worked into the set, and none were slogs. A highlight came late in the set when an acoustic presentation of «What Goes Around… Comes Around» flowed directly into the new album’s «Say Something», Timberlake’s potent duet with Chris Stapleton.

Other songs were given fresh touches; the instrumental spaceship funk of «My Love» was laid underneath Eminem’s a capella «Forgot About Dre» verse when Timberlake busted out his sampler and paid tribute to Slim Shady, and the bass-rattling drums from Clipse’s «Grindin'» gave a new forcefulness to «Summer Love».

There was barely any downtime during the set, but Timberlake and crew did find time to toast a woman in the crowd holding up a sign announcing her pregnancy; the round of shots he and his band slammed led into a punchy version of «Drink You Away». Later, the band gathered around a small campfire on the catwalk near the back of the arena and performed the new album’s lullaby «Flannel» along with brief covers of songs by Fleetwood Mac («Dreams»), Lauryn Hill («Ex-Factor»), the Beatles («Come Together») and John Denver («Thank God I’m a Country Boy»).

Is Timberlake a country boy? «Man of the Woods» was misunderstood in the lead-up to its release as his bid for country crossover, when it really is a continuation of his love affair with future-funk pop-R&B. So it was nothing for him to transition from «Montana» to «Summer Love», or from «Rock Your Body» — performed on a disco floor that seemed to appear from out of nowhere in the VIP general admission section — to «Supplies», which he did while circling the bar in the VIP area. (The VIP ticketholders got their money’s worth, suffice to say.)

The evening closed, like Timberlake’s under-heralded set from this year’s Super Bowl halftime, with «Can’t Stop the Feeling!» the upbeat earworm Timberlake contributed to the soundtrack to «Trolls». As he and his crew bopped off stage exactly two hours after taking it, Timberlake left the crowd dancing in their seats and in the aisles, the way a good party hose should. There was no stopping the feeling, and no fighting it, either.

For Justin Timberlake, flash comes with flannel and a jean jacket at Little Caesars Arena

Detroit Free Press — If Justin Timberlake stumbled his way into 2018 — with an album and Super Bowl performance met by middling reviews — he certainly appears to be making a springtime turnaround.

The 37-year-old pop veteran served up an assured performance in a likable, visually engaging show Monday night at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena, two weeks into a Man of the Woods Tour that will run through 2019.

It was a night that slipped intimate moments into a presentation that was supersized: Playing for a crowd that appeared to number about 17,000, Timberlake made full use of his massive stage, including a glossy runway, dotted with fake trees, that twisted its way across the whole of the arena floor. He wasn’t short of company there, joined by a seasoned Tennessee Kids ensemble that included an 11-piece band, four backing singers and six dancers.

For all the familiar elements — all the shiny flair and athletic choreography — this wasn’t a Justin Timberlake show of years past. Monday found him trying a few new tricks courtesy of his roots-inspired «Man of the Woods» album, and while results were mixed, he gets an A for the bold, comfort-zone-expanding effort. If nothing else, the new business seemed to be well tolerated by fans — some now as old as the moms who accompanied them to Timberlake’s earliest Detroit shows with ‘N Sync two decades ago.

(Timberlake, a basketball fan and part-owner of his hometown Memphis Grizzlies, perhaps wisely avoided mention of the NCAA title game happening simultaneous to his show, as Michigan was steadily routed by Villanova. While most of the night’s mobile-device action was trained on Timberlake, it was easy to spot fans at LCA checking for score updates.)

Amid the rigor of the production around him — a panoply of laser sequences, moving stage parts and scrupulously rehearsed dance numbers — Timberlake gave himself enough wiggle room to keep things from lapsing into the robotic.

That Monday night would blend looseness with precision was clear from the outset, as Timberlake hit the stage in the dramatically lit style of modern pop spectacles … while sporting a jean jacket over flannel and a T-shirt. That dichotomy is the spirit behind «Man of the Woods», after all, an attempt by the Tennessee native to construct a bridge between the bucolic and the glittery.

The point was driven home by the giant opaque video scrims that descended early on, encircling Timberlake with woodland footage as he steered his curvy tenor through «Midnight Summer Jam» and its lithe, vintage-R&B grooves. Later, the scrims became blue skies overhead as he moved to a section of stage sporting fake grass and doled out touches of twang on the new album’s title song.

There was at least one moment of genuine spontaneity: Spotting a female fan’s handwritten sign down front, Timberlake stopped, silenced his band and trotted over to retrieve it. «Detroit, this is very cool», he declared before reading the sign’s request aloud:

«Will you help announce my pregnancy to my family?»

The fan, identifying herself to Timberlake as Darcel, is due to give birth Nov. 1. And so, as he told the roaring crowd, «that deserves a toast» — a handy segue to one of the show’s built-in segments, with liquor shots delivered to Timberlake and his band.

The show was unorthodox in key respects: The bulk of its energy came up front, a hardworking run packed with the propulsive dance-pop sizzle («LoveStoned», «SexyBack») and smooth champagne pop («Suit & Tie») that marked Timberlake’s previous solo tours. Then came a lengthy, lower-key stretch that found him armed with acoustic guitar, including a segment with Timberlake and company gathered around a virtual campfire, before a rat-a-tat-tat of upbeat hits sent things hurtling to a quick finish — minus an encore.

The new stuff was hit-and-miss. The jagged honky-tonk-lite of «Drink You Away» was less downhome charm than downright awfulness, and «Flannel» — a bit of acoustic folk-pop with gospel-ish backing — was just marginally more palatable. Elsewhere, though, the yearning vibe of «Say Something» and lush club groove of «Montana» held their own among Timberlake’s older fare.

Even among the stinkers, there was something strangely admirable about it all: Here was a proven star with a time-tested formula, shaking things up just enough to challenge himself and his fans. Timberlake was wise enough to send them out with a little sunshine in their pockets — via the ebullient «Can’t Stop the Feeling!» — but not before leading them somewhere they’d probably not expected to go.

Review: Justin Timberlake sets the Woods on fire at Little Caesars

Oakland Press — The happy people in the metro area Monday night, April 2, were at Little Caesars Arena.

And they weren’t all Villanova fans.

While the University of Michigan was being pounded in the NCAA men’s basketball finals, Justin Timberlake and his Tennessee Kids were pounding out hits — a full two hours of ‘em (his own, no *NSYNC) in a buoyant exposition of song, dance and memorable special effects. If Bruno Mars has staked a claim as pop music’s top showman during the three years or so Timberlake has been off the road, this year’s Super Bowl halftime star is back to make his own bid for that crown.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a production that makes full use of an arena in as complete a way as Timberlake is doing with his Man of the Woods Tour, named after his latest album. With staging that ran the full length of the nearly sold-out venue, Following a half-hour opening set by his proteges the Shadowboxers, Timberlake and company — a 15-piece band and six dancers — were in constant motion throughout the night, playing to every feasible direction of Little Caesars and even jumping into one of the VIP pits (clearly the one with the highest ticket price) for some up-close-and-personal dancing during «Rock Your Body».

Overhead scrims displayed both live projections and prepared footage, accented by were more lasers than in a Star Wars film. Keeping with the Woods part of the theme, trees lined the lengthy ramp while foliage sprouted from the farthest reaches of the stage — right next to where Timberlake and his four backup singers sat around a campfire at one point, singing acoustic versions of both his songs and a covers medley that included Fleetwood Mac’s «Dreams», Lauryn Hill’s «Ex-Factor», the Beatles’ «Come Together» and John Denver’s «Thank God I’m a Country Boy».

The whole affair was tightly choreographed to appear precision at times, loose and improvisational at others. Timberlake and company were best when they were at their funkiest, executing ebullient group dances to remix-style renditions of the opening «Filthy», «Midnight Summer Jam», «LoveStoned», «SexyBack», «Suit & Tie» and more, while Timberlake worked a sampler to mash up his «My Love» with Eminem’s «Forget About Dre» — just before an epic rendering of «Cry Me A River».

There were strong purely musical moments, too, including a gospel-tinged «Mirrors» — for which Timberlake, who sported five different looks during the show, hawked one of his own tour T-shirts — and a tight pairing of «What Goes Around…Comes Around» and «Say Something». «Drink You Good» found he and the Kids sharing shots before Timberlake spotted a fan sign asking him to announce her pregnancy (due date Nov. 1) to her family — and the arena.

The campfire segment did meander a bit too long and a muddy mix, the product of too much sheer sound coming from the Kids, dogged much of the show, but those were generally eclipsed by the show’s myriad virtues. A breathless six-song closing medley led to the inevitable «Can’t Stop The Feeling», a joyous romp that even had Little Caesars staff dancing and clapping in the concourse and erased any pain anyone might have been feeling from the basketball game.

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